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I love the shape of toothless mouths

I love the shape of toothless mouths. Puckered, soupy, soft and malleable, the lips collapse around the gums. And the mushy words whistle gently in protest as they are exhaled into the cold air.

Rigzin, the grandfather in my homestay family has no teeth. He spends his days methodically separating apricot nuts from the shards of split open pits. In the evening, he flees the Hindi movies his grandson loves and retreats to the dark garden where he sits in silence and gazes up at the sky.

In Domkhar, the mountains block out the evening light. The valley is soaked in darkness but the sky remains illuminated. On my last night in the village, the moon is barely a sliver. One night in the compost toilet at SECMOL I look up to the moon. She glows in round fullness.

Constellations of water stains adorn the ceiling of my room at SECMOL.

I brush my teeth under innumerable stars on the trek. Reflecting my headlamp’s beam, the alien shiny patches on the tents mirror the sky. Hemmed in by mountains, forces far greater than me, I take comfort in my insignificance.

In the daytime I sometimes see forgotten soup packets and candy wrappers; discarded horseshoes litter the trail. An airplane rumbles overhead. Though unimportant compared to the vastness of nature, I can still do damage.

I shouldn’t worry that the sugary milk tea will give me cavities. The gesture of welcome it represents is more important. And anyway, I love the shape of toothless mouths.